Our own expectations of the “best” athletic trainer are unrealistic. Let that sink in for a second. We all talk about the pressures and the role strain we have as ATs. Are some of these pressures a result of our own personal traits? Did we choose a profession that only fuels our desire for perfection even though achieving perfection may be impossible?
I am sure we have all had (or soon will have) a colleague who leaves the profession because they are burnt out or they are tired or they are fed up with constantly having to justify themselves and their profession. While there are challenges in our profession due to the public’s perception of our practice, some of our challenges are self-inflicted. It starts with us as individual athletic trainers. It is not the NATA’s, the BOC’s, the NATA Foundation’s, or the CAATE’s responsibility alone fix our challenges. We need to look into ourselves and alter our definition of what the “best” athletic trainer looks like. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to spend countless hours in the athletic training room “just in case.” We don’t have to sacrifice our time or our family for a low-paying job. We DO have to advocate for ourselves. We DO have to ask for help. We DO have to take personal responsibility for OUR profession. We DO need change our actions to reflect what we all want.
This is a cultural shift in the profession. Cultural shifts take time. If you think this will change overnight, you will be disappointed. Cultural shifts must be grassroots to be successful. Cultural shifts cannot come from above. If we want to fix the big challenges in AT, we need both a grassroots approach and a top down approach. Without this collaboration we will never move forward.
-Matthew Schafer ATC, LAT and Kenneth Games PhD, ATC, LAT